Cpl. Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara, left) prepares to dole out another beating to POW Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) in Unbroken (Universal Pictures)

In Unbroken, World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini is subjected to a crash landing at sea and a grueling stint in a Japanese POW camp. Will he survive?

Obviously. Otherwise, the flick would be titled Broken.

The real question is whether you, the viewer, will survive Angelina Jolie’s oh-so-slow, oh-so-traditional war epic. Two hours and 17 minutes might not sound like a long slog, but that’s exactly what it turns out to be.

As you know if you’ve seen any of the recent interviews with Jolie, the second-time director was enamored of the real-life Zamperini, who died before the film was ready for release. Perhaps the saga’s greatest shortcoming is that, after watching it, we’re not sure why she found his story so compelling.

Yes, he was heroic. Yes, he was a survivor. But so were lots of other U.S. veterans.

One thing that sets Zamperini apart is that he was a distance runner at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Even there, however, he barely stood out. In an early flashback, we watch as he runs an exceptionally fast final lap on his way to an eighth-place finish.

Following his wartime plane crash, Zamperini is forced to endure weeks on a raft in waters filled with hungry sharks. After that, he’s sent to a Japanese POW camp and has to endure unrelenting abuse from the sadistic corporal who runs it.

Zamperini clearly has guts. Otherwise, honestly, he’s not all that interesting. You can’t really blame actor Jack O’Connell, as the character has little to do besides gritting his teeth and absorbing blow after blow from the bamboo-stick-wielding Cpl. Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara).

That brings us to the film’s second-biggest shortcoming, which is that Watanabe, the villain, is far more compelling than Zamperini, the hero.

Why does Watanabe pick on this former Olympian? Why does he seem to consider him a soulmate who happens to be his country’s enemy? The corporal’s wistful gazes speak volumes even while his arms are doling out abuse.

Other than these Freudian questions, Unbroken’s script is mostly pedestrian, with characters who spout synthetically clean dialogue and mawkishly inspirational lines like “If you can take it, you can make it.” The most shocking part of all this is that the four scriptwriters include the usually edgy Joel and Ethan Coen.

In a postscript, the film notes that for years after his wartime ordeal, the real-life Zamperini suffered from post-traumatic shock and the desire for revenge. Though The Railway Man dealt with similar issues earlier this year, this sounds like promising material for a film—a better film, in fact.

One can’t help wondering if Jolie’s main mistake was to focus on the wrong portion of her beloved hero’s life.